Major Watch Holding Companies
Here is a list of the multitude of high-end luxury watch brands split up by the few parent companies that own each of them and some of the (still) independant watch brands.
Kering is a global Luxury group, Kering manages the development of a series of renowned Houses in Fashion, Leather Goods, Jewelry, and Watches: Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Brioni, Boucheron, Pomellato, Dodo, Qeelin, Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux, and Kering Eyewear.
Brands Under the Kering Umbrella
Girard Perregaux: Established in 1791, Girard-Perregaux distinguishes itself as being one of the only Swiss watch companies that still develops and manufactures all components of the watch-making process in-house. Today, the company designs and develops many essential watch movements. For instance, the company manufactures the Tourbillon, mechanical movements and quartz movements.
Gucci: Known for its double “G” logo for many, many years, Gucci incorporates its infamous double “G” logo into its timepieces. Similar to how Gucci creates its other luxury goods, Gucci includes a wide variety of materials into its timepieces. For instance, Gucci watches come in a variety of straps, including metal, brown calfskin, black crocodile, and so on. Overall, the brand distinguishes itself by creating watches that are luxurious and edgy in their combination of various bold and creative materials.
Ulysse Nardin: Founded in 1846 in Switzerland, the company historically began by manufacturing marine chronometers; however, today, the company produces complicated mechanical watches. In addition, the company revived using enameling in the art of watch-making.
As a French multinational luxury goods conglomerate, based in Paris, LVMH is a result of the 1987 merger of Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy. Christian Dior is the main holding company of LVMH; therefore, Bernard Arnault, the chairman of Dior, is also the CEO of LVMH. LVMH contains a portfolio of over 60 brands in a variety of industries ranging from watches and jewelry to cosmetics and perfume.
Brands Under the LVMH Umbrella
BVLGARI: Combining Italian design with traditional Swiss expertise, Bvlgari prides itself in making watches of the highest creative caliber. Made with high levels of precision and strict quality standards, Bvlgari is a leader in the luxury watch industry.
Chaumet: Founded in 1780 in Paris, Chaumet remains true to its legend as a brand of unstoppable glamor and success. The company distinguishes itself by flawlessly incorporating styles from each century into its rich and spirited designs. Chaumet’s watch lines typically reflect the splendid designs of the Romantic period and the beauty of the cameos during the late 1800s.
Hublot: Found in 1980 by Maksim Kuts, Hublot immediately sparked a revolution by combining a rubber strap with precious metal in creating a watch. Today, many luxury watch brands use rubber straps in designing their watches; however, Hublot is still recognized as the main one that uses this design. In essence, Hublot is unique for making its watchbands out of indestructible rubber and merging Swiss craftsmanship and Italian design.
TAG Heuer: Founded in 1860 by Edouard Heuer in St-Imier, Switzerland, TAG Heuer began as Uhrenmanufaktur Heuer AG. Until 1984 on the dial there was only the name Heuer. This changed in 1985 when TAG Group purchased a majority stake in the company, forming TAG Heuer. The name TAG Heuer combines the initials of "Techniques d'Avant Garde" and the founder's surname. In 1999, French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH bought nearly 100 percent of the Swiss company. TAG Heuer is one of the largest and most desired brands honored for making the most accurate timepieces in the world. Known for creating watches of incredible precision, the company prides itself on its excellence in design and constant quest for innovation. Whether the preference is for a comfortable timepiece suitable for aquatics, or an impressive evening wear piece adorned in jeweled splendor, TAG Heuer has unique creations for every customer.
Zenith: The company was started in 1865 by Georges Favre-Jacot at the age of 22, in Le Locle in the canton of Neuchâtel. Beginning as a high-end luxury Swiss watch manufacture, Zenith has long been regarded as being one of the few companies to produce all of their movements in-house. In addition, the company prides itself on being the most rugged luxury watch brand in its ability to be water resistant in the deepest depths. Zenith’s most distinguishable feature is its window that allows the owner to see the main gears turn and perform all of its functions.
El Primero: The El Primero calibre was first released in 1969, went out of production in 1975 and was resurrected in 1986. It was one of the first automatic chronograph movements and has a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour (5 Hz). Zenith's El Primero movement was used by Rolex from 1988 to 2000 for the Rolex Daytona chronograph. The El Primero movement's high rate allows a resolution of 1⁄10 of a second and a potential for greater positional accuracy over the more common standard frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz). The El Primero was honoured with a 2012 release of the El Primero Stratos Flyback Striking 10th, limited to 1,969 pieces (in honour of the original 1969 release date), that housed the same 36,000 vph movement and a sub-dial measuring in tenths of a second to make a complete rotation every ten seconds.
Brands Under the Movado Umbrella
Concord: Founded in 1908 in Switzerland, Concord was the first private luxury watch brand to incorporate precious metals and gems in its watches. In addition, the company was the first to make a wristwatch out of coins, which is a trend that has been popular since then.
Ebel: Founded in 1911 in Switzerland, Ebel stays true to its foundation of creating luxury watch brands with highly-valued innovative design. Ebel distinguishes itself among other brands for its fusion of architecture and design. Since its beginning, Ebel has had long lasting links with the world of architecture and design, channeling the work of famous architectures into its designs.
Movado: Founded in 1881 in Switzerland, Movado’s name stands for “always in motion” and stays true to its name by always being up to date on the current trends and innovations. Today, the company is best known for its Museum Watch, a watch recognized by its single gold dot on the face depicting the sun, while the hands represent the movement of the earth.
Based out of Switzerland, this luxury goods holding company owns several prestigious brands that specialize in jewelry, luxury watches and premium accessories. In 1988, South-African businessman Johan Rupert founded Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA to serve as a holding company for the luxury goods market. As a publicly traded company, Richemont sells and distributes premium jewelry, watches, clothing, accessories, and many other luxury goods. According to the Swiss Market index of market capitalization in 2012, Richemont SA is the sixth largest corporation.
Brands Under the Richemont Umbrella
A. Lange & Söhne: Founded in 1845 in Germany, A. Lange & Söhne is revered as one of the best high-end watch manufacturers for its unique assortment of superior watches. A. Lange & Söhne distinguishes itself as an opulent brand with quality craftsmanship. With the exception of a very few special edition watches, A. Lange & Söhne watches are made of gold or platinum. In addition, all of these watches consist of mechanical rather than quartz movements.
Baume & Mercier: Brothers Louis-Victor and Célestin Baume founded the company in Les Bois, a village in the Swiss Jura, in 1830 with the motto "Accept only perfection; only manufacture watches of the highest quality. Baume & Mercier, a manufacturer a part of the Richemont group, has established itself as a luxury manufacturer of sporty chronographs. With high attention to detail, Baume & Mercier offers a range of authentic timepieces with that embody a contemporary look and modern feel. Today, the company is internationally known for its high-quality lines and adherence to the rules of truly fine Swiss craftsmanship.
Cartier: The famous jeweler’s house of Cartier was founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier. Since its foundation, Cartier has been hailed as one of the finest jewelers across the world, and is still recognized today as one of the best manufacturers of luxury jewelry and watches. Cartier’s watches passionately mix passion, delicacy, and boldness into one timepiece, making it one the world’s most well-known luxury watch brands. Many credit Cartier with making the first wristwatch; however, it is hard to determine who exactly created the first wristwatch. Regardless, Cartier undoubtedly made wristwatches popular to the general public. In essence, Cartier timepieces fuse cutting-edge technology with genuine passion making its watch brand a favorite among many watch aficionados. Well known watch models are Santos de Cartier and Tank.
Santos de Cartier: The Santos model was designed by Louis Cartier in 1904 for the famous Brazilian pilot Alberto Santos Dumont. He asked Cartier to design a watch with which he could see the time easily while flying: the Santos de Cartier saw the light of day as one of the first pilot watches. This was also the beginning of a friendship between the two pioneers. Santos carried the timepiece during his record attempt to fly around the world in a motor aircraft. This watch made men wear wristwatches and is therefore a unique model from the Cartier collection.
Cartier Tank: Perhaps the most famous model by Cartier. Designed during the First World War, the interplay of lines was inspired by the tracks of tanks being used for the first time in this war. Integrated into the housing, the strap grooves provide a seamless design and the rectangular shape of the watch is reminiscent of the British tanks. The Tank series houses models for both sexes and has therefore been a popular watch with both men and women for over 100 years.
IWC: At just 27 years old, American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones founded IWC (which stands for International Watch Company) in 1868. IWC began by fusing Swiss craftsmanship and American modern manufacturing techniques. IWC stays true to its tradition of using American engineering procedures in creating its watches in order to appeal to the American market. Today the company is especially known for dive and pilot watches.
Jaeger-LeCoultre: Founded in Switzerland in 1833, Jaeger-LeCoultre distinguishes itself by mixing innovation with elegant design. In addition, Jaeger-LeCoultre is considered the first company to control all stages of the timepiece production in-house. This company has had many innovative creations, such as creating the world’s smallest caliber, the world’s most complicated wristwatch, and many more. With eight distinct timepiece collections, Jaeger-LeCoultre offers a wide variety and has many different partnerships across all industries, including motorsports, polo and marine preservation.
Montblanc: Founded in Germany in 1906, Montblanc was named appropriately after the tallest mountain in Europe to signify the high aspirations and goals the founders had for the brand. In addition, the founders used the snow-covered peak of the Montblanc mountain to create the brand’s most recognizable symbol, which is today seen as the white stylized six-pointed star with rounded edges. Montblanc's beautiful writing instruments might be the brand's most recognizable products, but the company's watches (which debuted in 1997) have also become known for their craftsmanship. It's also introduced new technology to the world of horology. In 2015, the same year the Apple Watch debuted, Montblanc added some advanced technology of its own: the e-strap, which combined a traditional wristwatch with wearable technology in the form of an electronic display.
Panerai: The history of Officine Panerai dates back to 1860, when Giovanni Panerai opened a watchmaking shop at Ponte Alle Grazie in Florence. In 1890, his talented grandson Guido Panerai took over the business and relocated it to the Piazza San Giovanni. Preceding the collaboration of the brand with the Italian Navy, Panerai produced mechanical instruments such as depth gauges and compasses.
In 1936, the family received an order of a special kind and began to produce professional diver’s watches for the Marines. The Italian Marine Military placed the highest demands on the watch including the need to be waterproof but easily read in any situation. In the development of this pioneering timepiece, Panerai turned to the Swiss company Rolex, which at the time, was already known for its expertise in water resistance.
The cooperation with Rolex resulted in the Panerai Radiomir, which was a waterproof watch with a diameter of 47-millimeters that was considered to be of immense proportions in the 1930s. In order to ensure that the time would be legible in all environments, a patented phosphor based on radium was used in the manufacture of the Radiomir dial. At the time of Radiomir production, nobody was aware that the timepieces were being produced with the most radioactive substance in the world. However, the production of this Radiomir edition was very low since the timepieces were not being sold on the consumer market. Today, the Panerai timepieces constructed for the Italian Navy are some of the most wanted vintage rarities. However, the company today is now internationally recognized as a luxury watch brand that blends Italian features, Swiss innovation and a passion for the sea.
Iconic models from Panerai from Radiomirt o Luminor
Thanks to its unique shape, eye-catching size, and clear dial, the Panerai Radiomir has gained cult status among connoisseurs and collectors. Evidently, the original Radiomir was eventually discontinued due to its radioactive elements. Panerai then developed a new timepiece – the Luminor. As early as 1949, the company filed a patent for the tritium-based compound that they used in their Luminor models. Later on, it was discovered that the compound was also radioactive, but thankfully, it turned out to be harmless in small quantities. Today, the Panerai Superluminova contains a completely safe fluorescent. A word of advice for collectors, however – the Panerai models that contain tritium or even radium increase in price with each passing year.
The greatest difference between the Radiomir and Luminor timepieces – aside from the elements used in production – is the crown protector. The striking crown protector ensures that the crown is pushed against the case of the watch, guaranteeing secure water resistance. This unique element also provides the Luminor with a distinctive character and has come to be one of the hallmarks of Panerai. The Panerai Radiomir and the Panerai Luminor are highly recognised timepieces that have gained cult status among connoisseurs in the world of watches.
Piaget: Georges-Édouard Piaget set up his first workshop on his family farm in the village of La Côte-aux-Fées in the Swiss mountains in 1874. Piaget has become world renowned for its luxurious watches and jewelry. With a dual-status as both a watchmaker and jeweler, the company has created jeweled watches, coin watches, ring watches, brooch watch and cufflink watches. All of these watches emphasize the brand’s superior skill as a fine jewelry company. Piaget is now known for offering the thinnest automatic watch in the world.
Roger Dubuis: Roger Dubuis watches are known for incorporating delicate gemstones into the design of their watches. This brand balances traditional craftsmanship with avant-garde designs.
Vacheron Constantin: Founded in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron, the company is considered to be one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the world with an uninterrupted record. Vacheron Constantin has distinguished itself by creating luxury watches made with the highest technological innovations. For instance, the timepieces incorporate perpetual calendars, chronographs, moon-phases and jumping hours. Despite its beginning centuries ago, the brand’s luxury watch look has not changed since its foundation and the company continues to include extensive detail into every crevice and part of the watch.
Van Cleef & Arpels: Founded in 1896, Van Cleef & Arpels mixes technological innovation, unprecedented manufacturing skills and unparalleled innovation in making its watch and jewelry creations.
Brands Under the Rolex Umbrella
Rolex: Rolex has been founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf at the age of 24 in London. Nowadays Rolex is the largest single luxury watch brand. Nothing says timeless elegance like a Rolex. World renowned for being the greatest maker of luxury watches, Rolex invented several well-known watch concepts that changed the industry for the better. Some of these inventions include the first “certified chronometer,” the first effective “waterproof” and dustproof watch casing, the first wristwatch with an automatic changing date, and the mass-manufacturing techniques of luxury watches. With the highest resale value of any other luxury watch brand, Rolex’s top collections include the Oyster-Perpetual, Daytona, Submariner and Sea Dweller and many more.
Tudor: Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex watches, created the Tudor brand based on the idea of offering consumers the reliability and dependability of a Rolex, at a lower price. The company uses the same case materials, bracelets, and dials; however, Tudor’s movements are usually a Swiss-made ETA movement rather than an in-house Rolex movement. In essence, Tudor’s lower price is intended to appeal to a wider international audience.
Founded in the early 1980s by Nicolas G. Hayek (1928-2010), Swatch is the world’s largest watch company that not only owns many of the most well-known luxury watch brands in the world, but all has its own watch brand collection. In hopes of recapturing the entry-level market share, the Swatch line consists of unique and interesting watches that appeal to the watch lover on a budget.
Brands Under the Swatch Group Umbrella
Blancpain: Founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, this brand stays true to its often repeated slogan: “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be.” As the leading mission of the company, Blancpain differentiates itself from other brands by remaining adamantly true to its devotion to the mechanical wristwatch. Not once has the brand manufactured a quartz wristwatch. Blancpain’s mechanical watches aren’t trendy watches but instead classical in their elegance and simplicity.
Breguet: Always ahead of its time in innovation and technology, Breguet was founded in 1775 in Switzerland. Known for numerous inventions in the world of luxury watches, Breguet is most famous for inventing the tourbillon. Always built by the most talented Swiss watch makers, these watches are known today for their hand engraved silver dials and intricately finished cases with the famous Breguet signature.
Glashütte Original: Since its foundation, Glashütte Original has always constructed every component of its famous Glashütte Original watch within its own factory instead of outsourcing parts from all over parts of the world. Glashütte Original stays true to this tradition because its mission is to provide buyers consistency in craftsmanship throughout every piece of the watch. The company prides itself on its signature watch features that include: polished steel parts, blue screws, hand-engraving of the Glashütte Original logo and gold screw mounted chatons.
Hamilton: The Hamilton Watch Company is a Swiss manufacturer of wristwatches based in Bienne, Switzerland. The Hamilton Watch Company had its genesis as an American watch design and manufacturing company, which incorporated in 1892 and produced its first watch in 1893. After its formation, the Hamilton Watch Company went on to manufacture and market pocket watches and wristwatches, ending American manufacture in 1969. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the Hamilton Watch Company became a diversified conglomerate itself and was subsequently integrated into the Swatch Group. For more than 100 years, Hamilton played a large role in the American watch industry, staying true to the pioneering and creative spirit that has shaped the American culture. Using Swiss watch-making expertise, Hamilton combines Swiss mechanics with American spirit to appeal to the American market, in addition to others across the world.
Harry Winston: Founded in New York City in 1932, Harry Winston is known for changing the world of modern jewelry and transforming diamonds and jewels into works of fine art. Since its beginning, Harry Winston has gained a huge following in the world of high-end jewelry and watch consumers in America and beyond. In 1989, Harry Winston began making timepieces based on the concept of mixing true authenticity and luxury into the company.
Longines: Based in a Swiss Town since 1832, Longines has been revered worldwide for its technical expertise in designing precise and advanced watches. Aiming to create elegant, yet performance geared watches, the company has garnered respect and popularity in the world of sports and aviation.
OMEGA: Founded in Switzerland in 1848, Omega’s durability and accuracy has made the brand the choice of many adventurous industries, such as being the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games since 1932, in addition to being the first watch on the moon in 1969 with NASA. Recently, Omega has changed the luxury watch world by introducing coaxial mechanics into the industry.
In Le Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland in 1848, OMEGA's founder Louis Brandt started a small workshop to sell pocket watches. Using the only money he had and parts from local craftsmen, he began creating bespoke pieces. Over the next several decades, Brandt maintained a modest business, selling his watches to customers from around the world. He passed away in 1879, and his sons resolved to take over the company.
The brothers immediately saw promise in their dad’s work for something more. They decided to expand the operation and begin making their own parts. Their work quickly paid off. Within a few years, they relocated the workshop to Bienne for a better opportunity to grow their workforce. In 1885, they launched their first mass-produced caliber, the Labrador, and in 1892, they created the first minute-repeating timepiece. Just two years later, the brothers introduced the 19-line OMEGA caliber. This helped to establish a reputation for their work in the watch industry. Eventually it would give the company its name.
A few short years later, tragedy struck the Brandt family. Within just six months of each other, the Brandt brothers passed away. This was a great loss for the company. However, they left behind a system that produced over 240,000 watches annually with an 800-man workforce. The fate of the business was now in the hands of four young men. The leader was Paul-Emile Brandt, who kept the family tradition going. With his work ethic and ingenuity, the company started to rise in the ranks to one of the best in the world. By 1905, OMEGA had begun serving as the official timekeeper at sporting events across Switzerland. For instance, in 1909, the brand served as the timekeeper for their first international event, a balloon race called the Gordon Bennett Cup. This partnership is particularly significant because it led to the distribution of OMEGA watches in six continents.
In 1932, OMEGA solidified one of its most important timekeeping partnerships. For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, they entrusted the OMEGA brand as the single timekeeper for the summer events in Los Angeles, California. This partnership has continued to this day, as OMEGA has served as the official timekeeper for over twenty Olympics Games.
Just over a decade later, OMEGA released the first edition of one of its most iconic watches: the Seamaster. The first Seamaster debuted in 1948 in conjunction with the brand’s 100th Anniversary. To this day, this model is one of the most popular watches in the OMEGA family.
In 1962, OMEGA made history when astronaut Wally Schirra wore a Speedmaster on his Mercury Sigma 7 mission. It was the first OMEGA in space. This led to a significant endorsement from NASA in 1965, making the Speedmaster their official chronograph for space missions. Then, in 1969, the OMEGA Speedmaster made its first journey to the moon on the wrists of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. The Speedmaster continued to be a crucial tool for NASA, helping the astronauts of the Apollo 13 mission return home safely. Six months later, on October 5, 1970, NASA presented OMEGA with the prestigious Snoopy Award for their contribution to the mission. Today, the limited edition Speedmaster Snoopy Award watches are among a select few models that have appreciated in the pre-owned market.
By the mid-1970s, OMEGA was number three globally and number one in Switzerland, competing with Rolex. However, as the 1980s approached, OMEGA, like many other traditional watch brands, began to struggle. While the quartz market was booming, classic watch companies faced an uncertain future. But, by the 1990s, OMEGA had returned to its former glory. The brand became the official watch of James Bond, appearing on the wrist of Pierce Brosnan in each of the iconic films. They also tapped world-class swimmer Michael Phelps as an ambassador.
In the new millennium, OMEGA continues to grow their catalog. For instance, in 2003, they debuted a new subset of the iconic Seamaster collection: the Aqua Terra. The defining characteristic of the line is a distinctive teak dial inspired by the wooden decks of a yacht.
More recently in 2019, OMEGA celebrates the monumental 50th anniversary of the lunar landing and the Speedmaster’s history making trip to the moon. To commemorate the occasion, OMEGA released the Speedmaster ‘First OMEGA in Space Met Edition,” on sale exclusively at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The release coincides with the opening of an exhibition called Apollo’s Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography, sponsored by OMEGA.
Whether through sports, space, or pop culture, OMEGA has maintained its reputation as one of the best and most well-known watch brands in the world through its commitment to excellence for over 150 years. To buy an OMEGA is to wear a piece of history. An OMEGA watch represents style that has prevailed through generations of avid wearers.
Rado: Headquartered in Switzerland, Rado introduced the use of scratch-proof materials into the world of luxury watchmaking and is still recognized today for making some of the most durable watches. This brand distinguishes itself with its clean, modern and innovative designs. Comfort and usability are two extremely important elements that go into the design process of Rado watches.
Tiffany & Co.: Using technology and manufacturing skills from its owner, the Swatch Group, Tiffany Watch Co. Ltd fuses Tiffany’s impeccable designs with Swiss mechanics to create its notable high-end luxury watches.
Tissot: Since its start in 1852, Tissot Swiss watches are known as traditional innovators for developing high-tech products, special materials, and advanced functionality. For instance, the company introduced the world’s first touch screen watch in 1999, making itself world renowned for advanced technology and invention.
Independent Watch Brands
Today, few watch brands can claim to be independently owned and operated. While there are still a few actual independent brands out there, many watch companies are owned by holding companies with smaller or more diverse portfolios. They operate more or less independently.
Audemars Piguet: When Jules-Louis Audemars and Edward-Auguste Piguet joined forces in 1875, they created Audemars Piguet, which is still in the hands of the founding families today. Since the company’s foundation, Audemars Piguet has stayed true to its original goal of crafting complicated luxury watches. Still today, this company is the oldest luxury watch manufacturing company that has never left the hands of its founding families, which has allowed the company to follow its own unique vision. Audemars Piguet changed the luxury watch game when it debuted the Royal Oak in 1972. The hefty steel timepiece was a notable departure from the much more delicate gold watches of earlier days.(a member of the “Holy Trinity” of luxury watch brands – meaning the three most prestigious and expensive watch brands)
Bell & Ross: Bell & Ross is the result of a team of Swiss watch manufacturers and another team of aircraft control specialists joining forces in 1992 to create what has become known as one of the greatest luxury watch brands that can withstand extremely rugged conditions. In essence, Bell & Ross watches offer the wearer the luxurious look of a designer watch and the resilience of a sporty watch. These luxury watches can handle severe temperatures, extreme acceleration and high altitudes.
Bovet: Founded in London, Bovet originated on the idea that the founder wanted to manufacture watches exclusively for the Chinese market. In the 1990’s, Bovet produced its now infamously unique watch style, which incorporates various elements of the pocket watch form in its construction. For instance, this pocket-watch inspired wristwatch contains lugs that were unique to pocket watches before the introduction of this wristwatch. Overall, all of Bovet’s watches can be distinguished for their high-quality enameling, engraving, and seven-day self-winding Tourbillon.
Breitling: Known for their precisely made timepieces, Breitling has been producing Swiss watches since 1884. Originally manufacturing watches for the aviation industry, Breitling’s watches offer many functions to benefit those in the aviation industry, such as the fact that all of their watches have a large face for better visibility and to allow the display of more information on the analog dials. In addition, many of the new models feature a purely mechanical automatic winding mechanism. However, despite all these features, Breitling’s watches are more popular in the luxury watch industry and status symbols than in the aviation industry.
Chopard: Founded in 1860, Chopard is a Swiss luxury watch company that has stayed true to its origins of developing precise pocket watches and chronometers based upon innovative ideas. Made of fine gold and encrusted with jewels, Chopard is world renowned for its luxury watches. Today, the brand's glamorous watches and jewelry are regularly seen on the red carpet at events like the Cannes Film Festival (an official Chopard partner).
Chronoswiss: Founded in Germany in 1983, Chronoswiss is known for its extraordinary mechanical timepieces that are easily recognized across the world for their guilloche dials, onion crowns and coin-edged cases. In addition, the company is famous for specializing in a variety of under-the-dial complications, as well as some modestly priced skeleton-like prices.
Corum: Founded in 1955, Corum is known for creating its world famous Coin Watch using the $20 gold coin. Credited for innovation and creativity, Corum has always been considered a luxury watch label that incorporates ideas from the pioneering spirit that founded the United States into the manufacturing of its watches.
de Grisogono: One of the most prolific designers of our time, Fawaz Gruosi has created jeweled watches for the wealthy of Switzerland and across the world since the brand was born in 2000. de Grisogono watches are famous for its unique designs and first-class quality artistry.
Eberhard & Co: The Eberhard & Co manufacture was founded 1887 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the historic birthplace of the Swiss watchmaking industry by Georges Eberhard. Eberhard was the son of a prominent Bernese family tracing its origins back to the 10th century, which was involved in the development of the Swiss watchmaking industry. His father early initiated him to the art of watch making and Eberhard was only 22 when he founded the company. In 1907, the company has become one of the largest Swiss watch manufacture and inaugurated its new headquarters which takes an entire block at the very center of rue Leopold Robert, La Chaux-de-Fonds's main avenue. The Parisian-like five-story building was designed in distinctive Beaux Arts style with a round tower topped by a large eagle sculpture, and has become one of the city's well-known landmarks and its highest structure until the 1960s.
In 1919, Eberhard's sons, Georges and Maurice took over the company. Even then, the brand was not without competition, but Eberhard & Co. managed to distinguish itself by focusing on new developments. It is therefore not surprising that the brand was one of the first to embrace the wristwatch and focused mainly on the development of chronographs. Nor is it surprising that the brand was at the forefront of the most important developments in chronographs, from the introduction of the hour meter to the first wristwatches with a rattrapante complication.
After the end of World War II, the manufacture resumed its activities and, in 1947, made its first woman's watch, starting its jewelry collections. Since 1996, the manufacture has decided to focus on luxury king-size wristwatches and launched a new Grande Taille (Super Size) collection. True to its history of technical challenges, Eberhard & Co launched in 1997 the 8 days "a manually winding mechanical watch that needs to be rewound every eight days only" thanks to a special winding device and, in 2001, it launched the Chrono 4 "the first chronograph in the history of watchmaking whose counters are arranged in one row". In 2017 Eberhard & Co. celebrated its 130th anniversary of uninterrupted watch production. A book entitled "The Art of Defying Time" was published for the occasion.
F.P.Journe: In 1994 François-Paul Journe started designing his vision of contemporary watchmaking and presented in 1999, a collection of wristwatches signed F.P.Journe with the Latin wording – Invenit et Fecit – meaning “invented and made”. It thereby certifies that each of the watches carrying his name results from an entirely original conception with rigorous craftsmanship. He has to adapt his tailor-made know-how to the process of industrialisation et decorticate all the movements he invent so that each of his components can be manufactured under his specific requirements. His creative and intellectual invention process remains identical that when he was a craftsman, only the shaping changes considerably, with more contributors.
Franck Muller: For the past 15 years, Franck Muller watches has marked itself as a reputable brand for its self-winding and manual mechanisms. Franck Muller has introduced many inventions over the years, including 22 watches that brought new concepts and technology to the luxury watch industry.
Giuliano Mazzuoli: Guiliano is an artist. His luxury watches are his portfolio, and the mechanical world is his muse. As a typesetter by trade, Mazzuoli escaped the obsolescence of printed pages by way of a greater anachronism; the mechanical watch. In 2004, Giuliano Mazzuoli launched his first luxury watch and most renowned design to date; the Manometro, Italian for “Pressure Gauge.”
From his Italian home, Mazzuoli and his family-run company design beautiful tributes to their favorite utilitarian objects. With a total staff amounting to barely one dozen workers – half of them immediate family – this is a watchmaker that stresses virtue over volume. Annual production amounts to less than one thousand pieces, and Mazzuoli’s artistic sensibility refuses to pander to common tastes.
Rather than a “spec-war” scowl, the Manometro is designed to elicit smiles from owners and onlookers alike. The Manometro is designed to resemble an automotive tire pressure gauge, and Mazzuoli is proud to declare the fact. In fact, the Manometro is a celebration of its source material. While the uncluttered dial, lug-less case, and vivid calibrations are a dead-ringer for a tire pressure gauge, the finish and detailing would put even Ferrari’s F1 pit gear to shame.
Each Manometro is built in Switzerland to Mazzuoli’s exacting specifications. Brushed steel, rich dial details, and the signature knurled crown at 2 o’clock are rendered in materials that elevate the blue-collar charm of the inspiration to the level of white-glove refinement. True to his vision of providing no-compromise materials, Mazzuoli fits the Manometro with a hand-stitched Tuscan leather calf skin strap. Its texture is luxurious, supple, and redolent of old-world craft. At the point where the strap joins the case flank, the Manometro features a clever metal insert that conforms to the case curvature and allows the Manometro to sit as secure on the wrist as a conventional watch despite its lug-less form. Gorgeous polished screws secure the metal inserts and enhance the visual appeal of the tan leather strap.
Inside its brushed steel 43mm case, the Manometro employs a Swiss ETA 2824-2 automatic movement. In an era when genuine ETA movements are being replaced by a growing number of ersatz imitations, Mazzuoli’s Manometro is distinguished by its use of the real thing. The 2824 date wheel has been removed in order to maintain the symmetry of the Manometro’s iconic dial. For precise synchronization to a reliable reference clock, the hacking function of the 2892 has been retained. The Giuliano Mazzuoli Manometro features 5ATM (50-meter) water resistance for water splash and rain protection.
Grönefeld: In 1912 Gerhard Louis Grönefeld started as a watchmaker in Oldenzaal, the Netherlands. Now, more than a hundred years later, the brothers Bart and Tim are the driving forces behind the brand. The passion and craftsmanship in watchmaking have been passed down to generations that led to the foundation of Grönefeld watches. In 2008, the brothers presented their first watch, the GMT-06 Tourbillon Minute Repeater. The One Hertz was introduced two years later. Grönefeld received several awards for this watch for its innovative timepiece - the first timepiece with a "dead second" hand. The second hand jumps per second. In addition to the One Hertz, Grönefeld has also released some limited edition watches. The most special limited edition is the 1941 Remontoire, whose remontoire mechanism is similar to that of a church bell. The constant force mechanism in this watch ensures that it always runs smoothly. Bart en Tim Grönefeld made it their mission to hand build elegant timepieces with surprising mechanisms that belong to the best in the world.
Maurice Lacroix: Since beginning in the 1990’s, Maurice Lacroix watches have been uniting modern precision measures with high-end materials into its Swiss watch-making process. In essence, the company seeks to develop attractive functions in the mechanical watch models.
Oris: Since 1904, Oris has been known for only producing mechanical watches. In essence, the brand is highly regarded for staying true to its roots and initial manufacturing process. The company divides it watches into four sectors: motorsport, aviation, diving, and culture.
Parmigiani Fleurier: The Parmigiani Fleurier brand was created and officially launched at the Beau-Rivage Palace, Lausanne, on 29th May 1996. The intention was to be a brand rich in expert craftsmanship, at the cutting edge of watchmaking. The brand reflects the calibre of Michel Parmigiani's work. Parmigiani Fleurier is among the newer high-end watch brands. Michel Parmigiani established the Swiss watchmaker in Fleurier, Switzerland in 1996. One of its watches is now the preferred timepiece of Prince Charles, and its Toric Hemispheres watch, shown here, recently won the travel category at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (the Oscars of watchmaking).
Parmigiani Fleurier signed a partnership with Bugatti, unveiling the Bugatti Type 370, a timepiece which defies all conventions of watchmaking. Assembled along a horizontal axis, and in a tubular formation – evoking a car's engine – the Bugatti Type 370 was a world first, and the best possible illustration of an independent watchmaking centre forging its own history. In 2006, the Bugatti 370 was awarded the "Watch of the Year" award by the Japanese Press. The watch is a driving watch based on the Bugatti Veyron supercar. It is designed to look like a transversal engine, and is mounted in 18 carat gold. In order to make it readable while driving, the face of the watch has been placed in a vertical position on the case's front. The first Bugatti watch was given to car enthusiast Ralph Lauren. Only one hundred and fifty of the watches will be made each year, fifty of each of the three dial colors available. The watch will cost USD$200,000.
Michel Parmigiani started a discussion on quality in watchmaking. In conjunction with Bovet Fleurier and Chopard Manufacture, he set up the Fleurier Quality Foundation, in charge of the most stringent certification process in watchmaking.
Patek Philippe: Founded in 1839, Patek Philippe has created a world-renowned luxury watch brand. Known for pioneering the perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand, chronograph and minute repeater, the brand makes all of its movements in-house and creates watches that celebrate quality craftsmanship. (a member of the “Holy Trinity” of luxury watch brands – meaning the three most prestigious and expensive watch brands)
Polish immigrants Antoine Patek and Francios Czapek founded their company in 1839. In the early years, they specialized in making bespoke pocket watches for royalty and other elite members of society. After just a short time, Patek attended the Exposition Nationale des Produits de L’Industrie in Paris, France in 1844. It was here that he met a man named Adrien Philippe. Philippe had just been awarded a bronze medal for his innovative keyless winding and hand-setting system. Within a year, Patek and Philippe decided to go into business together, officially forming the Patek Philippe brand in 1845. That same year, the duo produced their first pocket watch together using Philippe’s keyless winding and hand-setting system.
For the next few years, the company continued to serve their high-class clientele. However, Patek knew that the brand needed to think bigger and grow their international reputation. So, in 1851, he traveled to the United States and began working with Tiffany & Co. This partnership has continued to this day.
The brand’s aspirations to build their international presence quickly paid off. In 1853, Patek Philippe participated in the Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations in New York City. Here, they received a silver medal for their creations. Just two years later, the brand received another silver medal at the World’s Fair in New York City.
The company was beginning to pick up speed, and Patek wanted to keep up their momentum. He continued to cultivate their partnership with Tiffany & Co. In addition, he traveled to cities all around the United States until he accumulated orders for 150 watches. His persistence and perseverance made a lasting impression on Tiffany & Co. and the American market. Ever since, Patek Philippe has maintained this highly regarded reputation.
During Patek’s travels and focus on the business, Philippe remained committed to the development of the brand’s watches. In 1861, he finalized and patented his keyless stem-winding and setting mechanism. Two years later, he published a book on keyless timepieces. That same year, he produced their first pocket watch with a tourbillon and invented a mainspring called the “slipping spring.” Then, in 1868, the first Patek Philippe wristwatch was born. It included an impressive perpetual calendar, split-seconds hand, chronograph, and minute repeater.
In 1877, the brand lost its dedicated original founder, Antoine Patek. A few years later in 1885, Philippe brought his son Emile Joseph into the business. He began to train him as his successor. Nearly a decade later in 1894, Adrien Philippe passed away as well.
Into the twentieth century, Emile Joseph continued his father’s legacy, maintaining Patek Philippe’s place as a leader in the industry. Then, in 1932, the Stern brothers, who owned a dial manufacture in Geneva, purchased the business. During the Stern family’s leadership, Patek Philippe has created some of the most iconic models. They introduced the first Calatrava in 1932. By 1968, they had debuted the first model in the Golden Ellipse collection. Then, they added the Nautilus to their catalog in 1976.
In 1989, Patek Philippe celebrated their monumental 150th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, they debuted the most complicated wristwatch ever made, the Reference 3974. This timepiece featured a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and moon phases and remained in production until 2000.
To this day, Patek Philippe continues to thrive under the Stern family leadership, and their watches continue to be some of the most highly sought after around the world. In June 2019, at Christie’s An Evening of Exceptional Watches, the top lot was none other than a Patek Philippe. The Reference 3448 sold for a record-breaking $1,155,000. In addition to special models like this, models like the Nautilus have reached cult status. So much so, Patek Philippe can’t keep up with the demand. Buyers and collectors may sit on a waiting list for years to get the coveted model. As a result, used Nautilus models have become increasingly popular in the pre-owned market.
Richard Mille: Dominique Guenat and Richard Mille founded in Les Breuleux, Switzerland the Richard Mille brand – as equal partners, registered on 23 October 2001. They decided to create a brand, with the idea of pushing watchmaking beyond anything that existed at the time, with a new contemporary approach to horology. After three years of research and prototypes, the Richard Mille brand presented its first watch, the RM 001 Tourbillon at Baselworld in 2001 in Switzerland. This manually wound mechanism was fitted with a ribbed tonneau-shaped case that revealed the mechanism6, the main features of the brand's visual identity, and included a tourbillon calibre, a power-reserve indicator and a torque indicator.
Universal Geneve: Founded in 1894, Universal Geneve is internationally known for its superior craftsmanship and manufacturing skills. In addition, the brand claims to have created the first-ever chronograph in 1917.
Vacheron Constantin: For over 260 years, Vacheron Constantin has enhanced and reinvented the art of Fine Watchmaking. From 1755 to today, from Jean-Marc Vacheron to his illustrious descendants, the legend of the Maison was built on various anecdotes and events to be discovered. (The oldest member of the “Holy Trinity” of luxury watch brands – meaning the three, together with Audemars Piquet and Patek Philippe, most prestigious and expensive watch brands)
Text Credits:Unwound by Crown & Caliber.